After a wheelchair-user's "humiliating" Isle of Wight ferry trip left him questioning how people with mobility issues travel to and on the Island, the County Press asked public transport operators what policies they have in place.

As previously reported, mainlander Terry Holt was twice asked to leave his car on a Wightlink ferry, despite making prior arrangements to stay in his vehicle.

He was even removed from the vessel altogether after the captain on the day declined his request.

Wightlink told the County Press the final decision over whether passengers can stay in their vehicles is made by the master of each ship, on the day of travel and "is always made on safety grounds".

Read more: Wheelchair-user "humiliated" after stay-in car row ends in ferry removal

The firm says it offers a wide range of support for disabled passengers, details of which can be found on its website.

But what about other operators?

Red Funnel 

Red Funnel told us it asks passengers who want to stay in their vehicles to notify them at least 48 hours in advance.

It provides designated ‘stay in vehicle’ crossings and in some cases can allow up to four vehicles to cross the Solent with passengers inside.

In 2023, it said its team supported 446 requests.

A spokesperson said: "We’ve taken great care to ensure our vessels and terminals accommodate most accessibility needs.

"If passengers need extra support or assurance before traveling, we’re on hand to help them make advance arrangements.

"This commonly includes ensuring on-board lift access or support with embarking and disembarking via a wheelchair."

In 2023, the firm introduced more accessible seating, wheelchair-accessible tables, lift upgrades, and subtitles on all onboard videos.

Staff have also been trained in the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities scheme.

More details can be found on Red Funnel's website.


Hovertravel said its award-winning accessibility initiative, HoverCare has been in place since 2016.

As well as having a wheelchair area and ramp, the firm has also upgraded both its terminal facilities with Changing Places toilets.

There are also several accessible aids in the terminals including hearing loops, walking frames, wheelchairs, walking sticks, ear protectors and ear defenders. 

Hovertravel joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme in April 2022, with its staff completing the training alongside other specialist training for dementia, autism and guide dogs.

The free HoverCare service can be booked online or requested at the terminals.

The assisted boarding process has been developed in conjunction with the community including input from local charity, Isle Access.

Once requested this process includes the crew of the hovercraft reserving a designated HoverCare seat onboard and staff assistance from the terminal across the pad and on to the craft, as well as assistance disembarking.

A spokesperson said: "Hovertravel has been awarded the top status in the Government’s Inclusive Transport Scheme, the only maritime company to be recognised at leader level and one of only two transport companies in the UK to achieve this."

Southern Vectis

The Island's bus firm said drivers undergo training to help those with disabilities.

Richard Tyldsley, Southern Vectis general manager, said: "For example, our team spends time wearing age suits, special glasses designed to help them experience sight loss, and other equipment intended to give them empathy for their disabled customers."

They are also trained as ‘Dementia Friends’.

Richard added: "New buses have lighter coloured floors because we have been told that this makes travelling easier for those with dementia.

“In addition to equipping our buses with ramps and extra space for wheelchair users, we understand the challenges faced by those with visual and hearing impairments.

“Our visual and audio next stop announcements help make travelling with us an easier and more enjoyable experience."

Southern Vectis is also a member of the 'Helping Hands' card scheme, which empowers the holder to discreetly and directly advise the driver of any assistance they may require.

Island Line

South Western Railway (SWR), which runs Island Line, said enhancing the accessibility of its railway continues to be a top priority.

When Island Line was upgraded in 2021, SWR said platform heights were adjusted to reduce the height difference between the trains and the platforms, such that some stations now have near-level boarding.

"We have ramps at these stations to bridge the remaining horizontal gap", a spokesperson said.

"Our spacious Class 484 trains all have dedicated space set aside for wheelchair users. Like all South Western Railway services, trains on Island Line also have an onboard guard who is able to assist customers with boarding and alighting and provide travel information. "

There is also in-house Assisted Travel team, contactable 24 hours a day, who can help with pre-booking assistance, or customers can turn up and get assistance on the day. 

Assisted boarding points at Island Line stations display details on how to get assistance and all stations now have information screens displaying the next trains and calling points.